The critical U.S. Senate race in Missouri — which almost certainly will pit Sen. Claire McCaskill against state Attorney General Josh Hawley — will soon begin in earnest.
The two have sniped at each other during the past several months, but the scandals of now-former Gov. Eric Greitens blotted out the sun. That’s over.
That means voters can turn their attention to the campaign this summer. There are several key issues both candidates should address now.
The next Senate may well contend with multiple vacancies on the nation’s highest court. Those could include the seat now held by Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered the fulcrum between the court’s four liberal and four conservative judges.
Replacing Kennedy would likely touch off a bitter debate.
Hawley and McCaskill should explain their views about the court in detail — in fact, voters should ask both to provide a list of jurists they consider qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court nominees are not subject to a 60-vote filibuster. If Democrats regain control of the upper chamber, though, it’s unlikely any nominee will be considered in 2020. Call it the McConnell rule.
If the GOP still runs the Senate, nominees will have an easier path. And the outcome of the McCaskill-Hawley contest could well determine party control of the Senate.
The working poor
The Senate’s attention to programs that help the working poor will continue. Both candidates should discuss proposed additional work requirements for food stamps — should states have that option?
Should the minimum wage be raised across the nation? How can the gap between rich and poor be narrowed — or is that a priority?
The U.S. has a record low unemployment rate yet faces trillion-dollar deficits in the years ahead. Both candidates should tell voters if the deficit is a concern. If the answer is yes, what can be done about it? (A hint: Another budget-busting tax cut isn’t the solution.)
Agriculture remains stuck in a slump, a problem likely to worsen if the Trump administration’s tariffs stick. Candidates should say plainly if they support the president’s tariffs or oppose them.
The next senator will have to deal with any fallout from the Trump investigations, the debate over nuclear proliferation, arguments about climate change, privacy rights, even corporate mergers.
Character and judgment will count. Keep that in mind, too, as the campaign unfolds this summer.